The Admiral and the Chakat 6: Truths
By Bernard Doove with Boyce Garald Kline Jr.
Boyce was restless. On either side of him in their shared bed his mates, Rosepetal and Zhane, were sleeping peacefully, but he was not. He tossed and turned, trying to find a comfortable position, but sleep still eluded him. Finally he just gave up. Lying on his back in the darkened room and staring up at the ceiling, he knew why he couldn't sleep - he was worried.
Tomorrow, he was going to fly down to Australia to visit his adopted family and he was taking along his mates and children. Christmas was almost there and they had been invited down for the holidays. With all the people that were going to be attending the festivities, the get-together was going to be held at the home of Longstripe and Desertsand. What worried him was how his mates would react to Forestwalker.
Yes, he had told them about hir and how he had been adopted into their family. They knew that shi was his friend. They did not know however that he had asked hir to be his mate of the heart and, more importantly, he had not told them of the times he and Forest had spent together in the New England forest at the New Worlds VR Palace in Melbourne. Technically, he hadn't violated his oath to his mates but now that some time had passed he couldn't shake the feeling that he had violated the spirit of that oath.
Did he regret the times he had spent with hir? No, and he never would. It was not that he loved his mates less, but that his love had grown to include Forest as well. Shi was part of his life now too and he did not want to give hir up. "What am I going to do?" he agonised.
In his heart, he knew what he had to do - he had to tell his mates about himself and Forest, but he wanted to do so without hurting them.
He lay awake the rest of the night, trying to find a way.
Forestwalker waited nervously at the shuttle terminal. Unable to keep still, shi had been continually pacing up and down the small waiting area, hir tail lashing in agitation. Shi was excited that Boyce was coming and wanted to be there the moment he arrived, but the prospect of meeting his mates had got hir more worked up than any other event in hir life. The other people waiting to pick up friends and relatives were starting to wonder what could be worrying enough to agitate a chakat.
Shi forced hirself to stop and squatted in front of the observation window. "Come on, Forest," shi told hirself, "You've met and made friends with complete strangers before now. This shouldn't be any different, and you have the benefit of having been told all about his mates." Somehow shi wasn't reassured, but shi was glad that the admiral's shuttle arrived then to take hir mind off the situation for a while.
The moment that his familiar form came through the door, shi bounded up to him to give him a hug. "Welcome back, Boyce!" shi exclaimed. Then shi noticed two feline females watching hir curiously and, for possibly the first time in hir life, felt a bit embarrassed. Shi pulled back slightly from Boyce and said, "You had better introduce your mates to me now, I think."
The admiral noticed the slight reluctance on hir part mirroring his own unresolved problems. Nevertheless, he kept an arm around Forest's waist as he turned to his mates and said with a gesture indicating who was who, "This is my mate, Rosepetal, my first love and mother to our cub Kayla, and my other mate, Zhane, whom I love dearly and who has also provided us with a fine cub named Kernos.
"I am very pleased to meet you, finally," Forest told them. Then, before shi could say more, both cubs had squirmed out of their mothers' grasps to get a closer look at the strange person that was talking to them. They excitedly starting touching hir and petting the lower torso that seemed so odd to them. Forest's sense of humour rose to the fore and shi giggled. "It seems that I'm quite a curiosity," shi told the slightly startled mothers.
The cubs had broken the ice, and the reserved look that had been on both their faces was replaced by wry humour. The cubs had accepted hir and they could do no less. They both came up to give hir a greeting hug and it was a relieved Boyce that walked out of the terminal. "Step one complete," he thought. "I can only hope that the rest goes as well." He smiled at his dear cubs who had been rewarded with a horsey ride on Forest's back. Those little scamps were proving to be a very big help and already his mates and Forest were swapping motherhood stories. "Just wait until they meet Forest's twins. I don't think I'll be able to get a word in edgewise then!"
The ride from the spaceport was a pleasant one. Rosepetal and Zhane talked with Forest as shi drove, trying to learn as much about hir as possible while trying to not be too obvious about it. Hir easy-going manner and hir good sense of humour stood hir in good stead with them and they began to see why Boyce had become such good friends with hir.
In the back, Kayla and Kernos stared fascinated at the Australian landscape that sped by outside the vehicle's window. As they were going out to the home of Forest's parents, they were headed away from the suburban sprawl and into the countryside. The land was sparsely vegetated but they were used to seeing such terrain on their mothers' home planets. Suddenly, Kayla's hazel eyes spotted a large moving mass ahead of them on the left side of the road.
"Look Kernos!" she said to her brother excitedly. "Kangaroos!"
The moving mob of marsupials, large Red Kangaroos, looked magnificent as they passed. They paralleled the road for a space, seeming to keep pace with the PTV (Personal Transport Vehicle) for a few hops before they were left behind.
"Wow! That was neat!" Kernos exclaimed as the herd dropped behind them. Turning to Forest, he asked, "Are there a lot of interesting animals around here?"
"Oh, there are lots of exciting and wonderful animals to see. You were lucky to see those 'roos. Since people started looking after the land better, you get to see more of them closer to civilisation.
"I think it's really neat, the way kangaroos hop around like that," Kayla added.
Forest smiled to hirself and realised that shi was getting too deep for the kids. They weren't interested yet in ecology and such, just the cute animals.
Boyce gave a small snort of amusement, smiling slightly as he looked towards Forest. "They aren't the only ones that hop around like that around here!"
Forest gave a small groan then chuckled. Seeing the look of complete bafflement on Rosepetal and Zhane's faces, she explained. "Boyce, Goldfur, Garrek and I were out on a picnic on one of his visits down here when this group of 'roos came up to us looking for a handout. They were pretty persistent, hopping after each of us trying to get some food. Then Goldfur and I got the sillies. To get away from them, we stood up on our back legs, tucked our fore legs in close and began hopping around like the 'roos!" She laughed. "With both of us being so pregnant at the time, we each looked like we were carrying a joey!" This drew laughs from everyone. "It worked though. The 'roos got startled and hopped away."
"Boin-gy! Boin-gy! Boin-gy!" Boyce added his own sound effects.
"Now you're the one that's being silly Boyce!" laughed Forest. "At least we didn't try to imitate an emu."
"What's an ee-myoo?" Kernos asked.
Kayla gave him a nudge and said, "You know! That big bird that can't fly."
"Oh sure," Kernos replied, "Who ever heard of a bird that can't fly?" He had a six-year-old's utter confidence in being right.
"Just wait until we get to my parent's place, Kernos," Forest said. "We have an emu that likes to hang around the yard. She thinks she's a chakat and doesn't want to hang around with the other emus. Then you'll see whether they are really birds or not."
The ride continued in the same light hearted spirit and soon they arrived at their destination. The sound of the PTV had been heard and a few people had already come out to greet the newcomers. Both Longstripe and Desertsand were there, as was Quickpaw and Goldfur with hir two mates. The chakats could hardly wait to greet their adopted kin, nearly burying him in a sea of multi-hued fur. The admiral's two mates were both a little stunned at the enthusiasm of the greeting, wondering what was going to happen when they turned their attention on his mates. However, after everyone had gotten in their hugs, they released Boyce for long enough for him to introduce everyone.
"Rosepetal, Zhane, these are the wonderful people who adopted me into their family." He started moving between them, a loving touch identifying them. "This is Goldfur whom you will remember I told you that I first met on a tour of duty and who introduced me to the rest of hir family. These are Desertsand and Longstripe, the parents of both Goldfur and Forestwalker, and also to my little sister, Quickpaw." He stopped to give his adopted sister a longer look. "Or maybe not so little any more. Still feeding the cubs well, Quick?"
Shi glanced down at hir well-filled halter and grinned. "Better every day, Boyce!"
Boyce fondly matched hir smile. Then he looked up and beckoned over the waiting foxtaurs. "These are Garrek and Malena, Goldfur's mates. Malena is pregnant with Goldfur's child while Garrek is already the proud father of a wonderful cub."
The two smiled and greeted Boyce's mates warmly.
"Let me add my welcome too," a voice came unexpectedly. A shadow detached itself from the house to reveal the jet black form of another chakat.
"Midnight! You got here in time!" Forest exclaimed and bounded over to give hir mate a proper greeting.
"And that is one of Forest's mates, Chakat Midnight, sire of Forest's twins."
Kayla plucked at Boyce's trousers. " 'Scuse me daddy, where's the daddy chakats?" she asked.
Boyce bent over and picked up his cub and cradled her in his arm. "You are looking at them, sweetie. Longstripe is Forest's and Quickpaw's daddy and Desertsand is Goldfur's dad."
"But they're girls!" declared Kernos bluntly.
"First time they've come across hermaphrodites, Boyce?" Desertsand asked.
"Yes, Desert, or at least up close and personal, and I really don't know how to explain it properly."
"How else? Do it the chakat way and tell it as it is." Shi looked to the cubs' mothers and asked, "Is it okay with you if I show them what it means to be herm?"
"Of course," declared Zhane. I don't believe in shielding them from the facts of life."
"I suppose so," Rosepetal was a little less vehement. "They should be old enough to understand."
"Then come over here, cubs." Shi beckoned them over. Kayla squirmed out of her father's arms and joined her sceptical brother. "You are half right in saying that I'm a girl. I'm a mother too. I gave birth to Forest and Quickpaw and fed them with these breasts, just as your mothers did for you. But Chakats are different from most people." Shi fuzzled Kayla affectionately. "You and your mother are females, girls. Your brother and father are males, boys. You know what makes them different, don't you?"
"They have a penis!" declared Kayla solemnly. Boyce was startled a bit, then grinned wryly.
"That's right," Desertsand continued. "Now what makes us different is that we are hermaphrodites..."
"What's a maffodite?" interrupted Kernos.
"Just call us herms, dear. It means that we are both male and female. We are all boys and girls at the same time."
Kernos' scepticism still showed. "Oh yeah? I say that you're just a girl."
Boyce spoke up, "Kernos, be more polite!"
Desertsand smiled. "So you want proof? You are really sure that I'm just a girl? Kernos nodded. "Then let me show you something." Shi lowered hirself to the ground and then rolled over onto hir back, exposing the dense fur on hir underbelly. A handpaw brushed some aside to expose hir sheath. "What is that?" shi asked the cubs.
Kernos was finally lost for words. Kayla however squealed with delight. "Oh wow! You're a boy too! What's it like?"
"What's it like to be just a girl? I can't explain how it feels, but it is wonderful to be able to be both a mummy and a daddy." Shi rolled back to hir feet and hugged a cub in each arm. "And we love our cubs as much as your parents love you."
Forest came over to hug hir mother. "I couldn't have explained it any better myself."
"A most eloquent demonstration," Zhane admitted. "You have given me a new perspective too. I'll have to do a bit of thinking about this."
Rosepetal added, "I already knew that chakats are herms, and Boyce has mentioned your nature to us, but it really hadn't sunk in until this moment. I think that this is going to be a most interesting time together at the very least."
Goldfur said, "Then let's go inside and have some refreshments and start getting to know one another."
There was a general murmur of agreement and everyone started heading for the door. Garrek quietly slipped between the two feline aliens and quietly added his own observations. "At least you came forewarned. The sexual nature of my mate came as an enormous surprise to me. However, I'll tell anyone who cares to listen that winning the affection of a chakat is one of the greatest accomplishments in the world. Your mate is a lucky man to endear himself to this family."
"So it would seem," Zhane said noncommittally.
Boyce trailed behind in the company of Quickpaw. He wasn't sure just what his mates were thinking and he was a bit worried. "Cheer up, big brother!" Quickpaw insisted. "They'll see that we aren't a threat to them."
Boyce smiled. "I suppose you're right, Quick. It really isn't a bad start."
"Besides, we haven't broken out the heavy artillery yet."
"Artillery?" Boyce queried.
Quickpaw giggled. "The twins are up and playing in the living room with one of the mouse toys you gave them. I defy anyone not to like those cuties!"
"Hey! I want to see that too!" and with that, he eagerly urged the grinning chakat inside.
Sure enough, the twins were in the living room when everyone walked into the house. A snow leopard and a varicoloured blur were in hot pursuit of a grey mouse toy. Suddenly, from behind a chair in front of the mouse, a red, white and black blur jumped out, bowling the toy over. The twins caught up at that moment and immediately the three cubs proceeded to "kill" the hapless toy.
Boyce grinned broadly at seeing how much enjoyment the cubs seemed to be getting out of his little present. "Hello cubs," he said to them softly. The three froze and looked up at him. Seeing who it was they ran over and began to jump on him, inviting him to join in their play. Everyone laughed as the cubs gave him a playful mauling before Forest, Quickpaw and Goldfur stepped in to help rescue him.
"So, do we get introductions?" Rosepetal asked.
Forest stepped forward first. "This little one here is Snowcloud," shi said, bringing the snow leopard patterned cub forward for inspection. The cub half closed hir eyes, sniffing at the hand of the Caitian for a moment before shoving hir head into Rosepetal's hand. In a few moments, Snowcloud was purring loudly as Rosepetal skritched hir between the ears.
"Oh, they are such darlings!" Zhane declared as she skritched a purring Patchwork between the ears. Quickpaw beamed as shi held hir niece for the tall tigress to look at.
Zhane asked, "May I hold hir please?"
Quickpaw handed Patchwork to her and Zhane increased the loudness of the purrs with some well placed strokes on hir incredibly soft fur. Meanwhile, Kayla and Kernos were staring wide-eyed at the cub that Goldfur held. "Shi looks like a fox!" Kayla exclaimed.
Goldfur smiled. "That's because Garrek is hir father - shi inherited his colouring. But shi's still a chakat, see?" Goldfur turned hir over, showing them hir white belly fur and hir tiny sheath before the cub brought hir long foxy coloured tail up between hir legs. Shi began purring when the admiral's two cubs began giving hir a tummy rub. "We decided to combine the naming traditions of our two families and have named hir Eudora Whitepaw." A few minutes later, Zhane and Rosepetal came over to admire Goldfur's foxy cub.
Rosepetal turned to Garrek. "You have a beautiful cub," she told him. He beamed at this as only a proud father can. Zhane handed over Patch to Midnight and complimented hir on siring two such beautiful cubs. Midnight looked equally as proud as shi cuddled hir child to hir unclad furry breasts where the cub tried to bury hir head in the thick ruff between them.
"Hey, don't I get a chance to play with my godchildren?" Boyce said plaintively. Forest, Midnight and Goldfur put down the cubs who immediately started attacking Boyce again. At Zhane's puzzled look, Forest said, "Goldfur and I asked Boyce to be the godfather of our children while we were both expecting. We were very honoured when he accepted." Zhane looked down to the floor where Boyce, his children and his godchildren were playing together. The scene brought a smile to her face as she was reminded of the joyous times he had playing with his own unexpected but very welcome cubs.
Boyce held up the mouse toy just then. It looked much the worse for wear and appeared to be barely functional. "They're hard on these things, aren't they? They must be quite the ferocious hunters now!" he said with a smile on his face as he tousled Snowcloud's head fur. "Are there many of these left from the gross I sent?"
"Not many," Quickpaw replied. "They do tend to destroy them on a regular basis." This drew laughs from all the adults in the room. "Even faster when Eudora is over. I hope you can send another supply."
"Oh, I think I can come up with something." With that, he activated the dilapidated mouse toy and set it on the floor. It took off, albeit a bit slower than earlier. Instantly, the three chakat cubs were off chasing after it, the admiral's own cubs chasing after them. There were smiles and chuckles all around at this display of youthful enthusiasm.
"I'll keep an eye on them!" declared Quickpaw and darted after them.
"Now that you've met the family, it's time to get a bit better acquainted," Desertsand said. "Make yourselves comfortable while we grab a few refreshments."
Everyone made themselves at home in the living room. Boyce was flanked by Rosepetal and Zhane on a large overstuffed sofa. There were pretzels and nuts in bowls on the coffee table as appetisers for the big roast dinner that was cooking for the Christmas meal.
Goldfur was the one to start the conversation. "We're pleased to have you over for our family Christmas gathering, but I was wondering how two persons from alien societies see this Terran celebration."
Rosepetal answered, "I've been on and off Earth for a long time now, ever since my days at Star Fleet Academy. I learned the meaning of this religious celebration at that time, but it was the secular sentiments of good will to all that impressed me. I've celebrated Christmas with my Terran friends, and Boyce too naturally, on several occasions now and I find it to be a wonderful event." She grinned as she heard some delighted squealing coming from the cubs in the other room. "I know our children like the idea of getting presents!"
Zhane looked a bit more thoughtful. "We don't have the equivalent of this on my homeworld and I find the story of your all-powerful God being born as an ordinary child rather strange. Raksha's deities are more down-to-earth in that they are evolved predecessors who sometimes take an interest in the affairs of the younger races. Boyce however has been trying to show me the symbolism of the event and the effect it has had on your society. I don't know if I can ever be comfortable with your dogma, but like Rosepetal, I can agree with the spirit of the season. When we're on Earth at Christmas time, I enjoy the family gatherings and seeing the joy on our cubs' faces. But what about you? I had heard that Chakats didn't practice religion."
"Not as such," Forest replied. "Generally speaking, we don't participate in any organised religion, but the majority of us have a belief in a Supreme Being and the ideas of love and tolerance preached by Jesus fit in well with Chakat ideals. We celebrate Christmas because of what He stands for and not because of some religious stipulation. It brings families together and renews bonds of love. It even brings new friends into the fold." Shi said this last with a pointed look in the two feline aliens' direction.
Zhane grinned wryly. "I suppose I must agree with you then. The evidence is clear." She then lowered her voice conspiratorially, "Besides, I think Kernos and Kayla would get very agitated if that fat human didn't come around any more to bring them presents like the other cubs."
There was a lot of laughter all round at this. "Yes, if nothing else, this time is for the children," Goldfur agreed.
The conversation then turned to discussions of their cubs and their families. Rosepetal, being of the more sociable Caitian race was very quickly at home with the Chakats, but even the more aloof Zhane was soon warmed to their friendly and curious nature and relaxed enough to enjoy the company. In the back of her mind, there were still questions that needed to be answered, but she no longer had the gnawing doubts about her mate's relationship with these unusual people. There would be time enough later to get her answers.
The moment came when Longstripe announced that the food was ready and shi wanted volunteers to help get it onto the table. Fortunately, the roomy kitchen could accommodate several people, even ones as big as Chakats or foxtaurs, so that the carving of the meat, the distribution of the roast potatoes and pumpkin, the pouring of the gravy and all the other tasks were accomplished with speed and efficiency so that the food was brought to the table still steaming hot. The extra foodstuffs were piled onto the centre of the very large dining table and then Quickpaw was called to bring the cubs.
Unlike Forest's home, hir parents' house was not built with a bi-level floor, but their two-legged friends were accommodated with special cushions that made sitting at the lower table level quite comfortable. Boyce's two children had worked up an appetite and were more than ready to eat. Goldfur took charge of Eudora, Forest gathered Snowcloud to hir side while Midnight claimed Patchwork. When all were present, Desertsand asked for a moment's quiet.
"On this special day, and in the presence of our dearest family, we give thanks for the happiness that the spirit of Christmas brings and our gratitude for the bounty of which we are about to partake through the grace of God."
"Amen," declared Boyce, joined by all the adults in the room.
"Now eat before it gets cold!" declared Desertsand.
No one needed any more urging and everyone started eating with gusto. It wasn't long though before a couple of squirming kittens started pointing out that they were hungry too. Their mewling was soon silenced as they too joined the Christmas feasting, albeit at their parent's breasts. Both Rosepetal and Zhane were still fascinated by the concept of the sire of the cubs being able to feed hir child too. Rosepetal dug an elbow into hir mate's ribs and said, "Now if only I could have gotten you to share the feeding duties, Boyce!" Caught off-guard, he almost choked on a mouthful of food, causing him to go red in the face, much to the amusement of all.
He recovered quickly however. "At least I helped you and Zhane clean up afterwards," he said. "After all, we didn't want leftover milk to go to waste, right?" This drew more laughs from those around the table.
The meal continued, Boyce complimenting Longstripe and Desertsand on the excellence of the meal that they had prepared. With all the hungry people gathered at the table, the food quickly disappeared and it was soon time for dessert. Quickpaw went into the kitchen and emerged with an enormous plum pudding nearly drowning in thick golden custard. As dessert was served, Goldfur said cheerily "Time for the presents! Kayla, Kernos, can you help me out by passing out the gifts?"
The cubs were out of their chairs like a shot. They dived into the pile of presents underneath the Christmas tree and, grabbing a present each at random, trotted back to the table. Kayla held up the present she chose and presented it to Forest. "This one's for you," she said brightly.
"Why, thank you Kayla," Forest said as shi took the small parcel from her. Tearing off the wrapping, shi found a hinged box. Upon opening it, she saw a pair of ornate bracelets.
"Those are Rakshan ankle bracelets," Boyce explained. "They are usually exchanged between members of clans when there is mating or adoption between them. The patterns indicate which clans and, in this case, one is Zhane's, to which I belong as her mate. She designed the pattern to indicate your clan. Your clan is always worn on the left ankle. Although you do get to choose which left ankle in your case," he finished with a chuckle.
Kernos had found a present that had been labelled for Rosepetal. She had accepted the gift but waited until Boyce had finished explaining, much to the annoyance of Kernos who wanted to see what it was. When she did open it, she was delighted to find a delicate blown glass sculpture in the form of a rose. The glass was delicately coloured within the material itself. "Oh! This is gorgeous!" she exclaimed. "I love it, thank you!"
And so it went. Each family had spent a lot of time and effort in working out a suitable present based on what they had been told about the other. Midnight received a gemstone similar in colour to hir eyes and attached to a simple leather thong for wearing around the neck. The three kittens got some new play mice, but ones with a mini brain in them. "These will learn their attack patterns and will evade capture, forcing the cubs to think harder about how to catch them next time," explained Boyce. "The challenge helps them learn."
Zhane was the recipient of a brooch inlaid with Australian Black Opal. Quickpaw received a locket on a silver chain with the words "Love from your Big Brother" inscribed upon it. Kernos and Kayla got several new toys and games from several people. Longstripe and Desertsand were given a combined gift of a deluxe holographic travelogue of all the worlds that the Admiral had visited. Garrek was surprised and delighted to get a Caitian flute. He tried a few experimental notes on it at the table, noting the warmth of the sound it produced. Malena received a superbly handcrafted Caitian necklace. "It's an old custom," Rosepetal explained. "It is not only a gesture of friendship, but a blessing for the child to come."
Lastly, the cubs brought over a small box to Boyce. "This one's for you Daddy," Kayla announced, then eagerly waited for him to unwrap it. There was a lid on the box that Boyce removed to reveal a layer protective padding. Removing that revealed something that made Boyce gasp. Gently he pulled it out for all his family to see. It was a porcelain statue of a chakat, but not just any chakat. The hair and fur colouring were a perfect match for Forest's jaguar patterning. Furthermore shi was clad only in fur and it was obvious that shi was gravid. "I posed for that shortly before I gave birth," Forest informed him. "Happy Christmas, Boyce!"
Boyce's eyes sparkled as he gazed at the very personal gift that Forest had given him. So special and so lovely! That shi should have something so beautiful made just for him! "Oh FOREST!" he breathed. He turned to hir, tears of happiness shining in his eyes. "Thank you!" With that, he threw his arms around hir and drew hir close for a deep, love filled kiss. He didn't care who was watching at that moment and neither did shi, for shi returned his kiss with equal enthusiasm. Behind him, he could hear his cubs giggle.
Rosepetal's eyes grew wide and her mouth dropped open as she watched the two of them. A sudden flash of insight struck her as she added up what Boyce had already told her about Forest and what she had seen for herself that day. Zhane, from her reaction, seemed to have reached the same conclusion.
The gifts passed out, everyone began to talk amongst themselves in small groups. When Boyce rejoined them, Rosepetal gently put her right hand on his right arm. When he turned to her, she said simply "You love hir, don't you?" Zhane was also looking at him, waiting to hear his answer.
He took one of their hands in each of his. Looking into their eyes he told them the truth - "Yes," he said quietly. "It's not something that either of us expected and it in no way changes the love I have for each of you or our cubs but yes, I do love hir." He paused, then said, "Our friendship grew so deep that it turned into love and - and that's why I asked hir to become the mate of my heart."
Both Zhane and Rosepetal gasped, their eyes going wide at this last statement. He had asked hir to become the mate of his heart? This put a whole new meaning to everything! Asking someone to become the mate of your heart was a very serious thing. It was an oath relationship, one that could not be undone once made and bound those taking the oath together for life. Male-female relations were one thing, but this was something far more serious. They knew his feelings for hir, and hirs for him, must be genuine and must be extraordinarily strong for them to take an oath like this. They glanced between Boyce and Forest in stunned shock, but their looks also showed awe and respect for the two and the oath they had taken together.
"Forest, can I and Rosepetal speak with you and Boyce for a moment?" Forest turned to look at Boyce and his two mates. Boyce was looking right at hir. "They know," his eyes told hir. If it hadn't been covered in fur, they would have seen hir face go pale. Nervous, shi walked over to the small group and the four of them went off together to the study. Forest closed the door behind hir to let them talk in privacy. Shi then settled on the carpet while the others settled on the only seating suitable for bipeds: a large sofa.
There was an awkward silence for a moment, then Zhane said, "Boyce, you have been hiding something from us and right now, I am feeling a bit confused and hurt. You obviously care very deeply for Forest, but you have never said that you are any more than good friends. Now that we know that shi is your heart-mate, how is it going to affect your relationship with Rosepetal and me?"
Boyce was fidgeting under the gaze of both his mates, who sat on either side of him. Without meeting their eyes, he replied, "I never intended that this would happen. I was very happy just being mated to you two. Then one day, I met Goldfur and back on Earth, shi introduced me to Forestwalker. It was incredible the way we hit it off together; the chemistry between us was marvellous. I fell in love with hir without even trying." Then he raised his sight to try to look at both his mates at the same time. "But I still love you and I have never forgotten my oath to you. Trying to resolve this situation has been tearing me apart."
"And you, Forest?" Zhane arched an eyebrow in hir direction.
Forest calmly replied, "I have the love of three of the most wonderful mates in the world, one of whom sired my cubs. I was not looking for another mate, but when I met Boyce I knew that I had met a kindred soul and I wanted to know him better. I offered him my love and was overjoyed to get his in return. However, Boyce has always made a point of his commitment to you two and it has put a strain on our relationship. We chakats never shy away from showing our feelings and we have love enough to spare for many mates, but even we feel helpless at times like these. I don't want to alienate you two and Boyce, and yet I do not want to lose his love either."
Zhane sat there looking thoughtful, so Rosepetal chose that time to speak hir piece to Boyce. "You have declared yourselves mates of the heart and we are all aware of how deep a commitment this is. However, this is not the part we have a problem with. It's the fact that you have taken this long to tell us about it. We are your mates, Boyce, and no matter the problem, we deserved to be told. How far has this gone? Are Forest's cubs really yours?"
This caught both Boyce and Forest by surprise. "What?! No!!" Boyce emphatically replied.
Forest was a bit less emphatic. "The cubs' sire is definitely Midnight. I conceived before Boyce and I had declared our love. Anyway, even though I might desire a cub by Boyce, Chakats are not inter-fertile with humans. A child will never be possible between us."
Zhane said, "My species and Caitians are not supposed to be capable of breeding with humans either, but both of us have had cubs sired by him. If the elder gods have decreed, then you will too. However, I accept that those are not his children. You have not consummated your bonding."
"It was not for lack of desire," Boyce admitted, "And we came as close to breaking my oath as was possible. I am so sorry that I could not stay as close to the spirit of the oath I made to you two because now I have hurt you and that hurts me too."
"How close did you come to breaking your oath?" Zhane asked.
"I have a sophisticated holosuite program. I visited Forest in full sensory holographic form and made love to hir that way."
Zhane looked startled. Rosepetal said, "But that's just an entertainment program. It isn't real."
"No, this was as real as it could get. You see, Forest was also there in holographic form. As I said, it was a full sensory program and it was very real to us."
Zhane said, "Boyce, would you please wait outside while we talk with Forest alone? We need to discuss some things without you there to influence the answers."
Boyce nodded and quietly got up. He walked to the door, opened it and quickly slipped through, closing it firmly behind him. Rosepetal leant back into the sofa with a deep sigh. "This is half our fault, of course," she said.
Zhane's head dipped in agreement. "We should never have accepted that oath from him. But he was so earnest and it seemed to be very important to him that he declared his commitment to us that way, so we accepted it, despite the fact that neither of us wanted his oath."
Forest looked a little startled. "But weren't you just telling him how you were hurt by the way he broke the spirit of that oath?"
That's just it," Rosepetal said. "It was his oath all along. I think that I speak for Zhane when I say that you make a very nice mate for Boyce and we don't object to your feelings for him. It's the fact that he could not live up to that oath and tried to keep his feelings for you quiet that hurts us. We would never have made such an oath because our racial customs are far different from yours. We would never have tried to impose upon Boyce what he chose to impose on himself."
Zhane added, "He still doesn't fully understand us. I know this because, although I love him dearly, I frequently do not understand him either. Our backgrounds are so different that it is sometimes hard to find common ground. Yet, when he is with us, we are happiest because he truly cares for us and we enjoy living our lives together." She looked at Forest squarely. "I'm sure that you can understand that part."
Forest murmured hir agreement, then asked, "But why didn't you want Boyce's oath? On Earth, such oaths give security to those who make the commitment. Don't you want that sort of thing?"
"Let me tell you a little bit of background on my species, Forest," Rosepetal said. On my world, females outnumber the males 6 or 7 to 1. We form family groups around a chosen male. Think about your Terran lion species that form their prides. The females work to provide for the family, the males are the protectors and managers of the household. Having several co-mates is what is normal for my world. In fact, it is a point of pride that a female can say: "Look at my mate. He is so desirable that he has this many females who want to be his mate also. Then look at me. I have a mate who is satisfied with just two females. If it wasn't for his astounding virility as shown by his ability to father children with us, I would not be able to hold my head high in the company of my peers. I want him to have more mates so I can show him off. It is this point that I cannot make him comprehend, to my endless frustration.
"I think I see," Forest said. "And I guess that you have a similar problem, Zhane?"
"Similar in that it is a clash of cultures, different in that we have very different customs on my homeworld. You must understand that, even in this modern age, infant mortality amongst my species is rather high. Our environment is very harsh and, to maintain our population, my people have evolved to instinctively think of the next generation constantly. Females are encouraged to find suitable partners from an early age. We have our first child whilst still quite young. The males take over the care of the cubs after they are weaned and then we are urged to have more. It is not an ideal situation, but we are not forced into it and we do find a good number of attractive males to have a pleasant time with. If we are fortunate, one of those males will be a mate of the heart. Then your mate can fill your spiritual needs as much as your physical wants. However, our innate need to make more cubs never ends and there will always be more males." Zhane paused for a moment, then admitted, "Boyce threw me for a moment when he told us about your making love in a holosuite environment. You see, mating with Boyce has not ended my body's urge to find more males to mate with, so I am a regular visitor to a holosuite facility. There I indulge in several love programs suitable for my species and come back to my family in a much restored state. How can I fault him for doing the same?"
"It seems to me that both of you need to make Boyce more aware of your needs," Forest said.
Rosepetal sighed again. "But like males all over the galaxy, he seems blind to them."
"Hey! Don't forget that I'm as much a male as a female!" Forest interjected.
"Doesn't count," Rosepetal waved dismissively.
"Oh, I don't know, Rose, I think this has possibilities," Zhane demurred. "I think that we have a solution to all our problems here."
"Oh? Ah! I think I see." Rosepetal's muzzle split in a grin.
The study door opened to show a worried Star Fleet admiral waiting close by. Forest waved him in and gave him a smile of reassurance. He opened his mouth as if to speak, only to be cut off by a gesture from Zhane.
"Boyce, we have come to a decision. Rose and I have decided to forgive you this time. However, we will be requiring some changes. You are going to pay a visit to both our worlds where you will spend a bit more time learning our social customs and not go sightseeing. You will learn what we truly want of you as a mate and to that end, we are releasing you from your oath."
Boyce looked startled and started to say, "But..."
"Uh-uh! I haven't finished yet. You may find that what we want is more demanding than that oath, and perhaps more forgiving too. You see, you aren't the only one who has desires and it may be hard for you to accept some things we'll be asking of you." She paused, then smiled. "But it's not all bad news. Our next requirement is that you and Forestwalker declare yourself as mates immediately."
Boyce's hazel eyes lit up with joy. He turned to look at Forest who was grinning back at him. "Forestwalker, will you give me the honour and joy of being your mate?"
"I will, dear admiral," Shi replied. "And will you make my life even more wonderful by becoming part of your family too?"
"Of course!" he declared and hugged hir in delight. Then in a slightly puzzled tone, he added, "But I sense that there's more to it than that."
"Yes there is," Forest admitted as shi cuddled him, "But it's not a cause for alarm. You see, this way Rosepetal can declare me as a co-mate and increase her social standing. There's also the possibility of declaring Goldfur as such and any others with whom you choose to share your love. As for Zhane, she will have me as a co-mate who can see to her needs and a whole chakat family who will be only too glad to help. Then there's the large family environment that she has been missing since leaving her homeworld to be with you. Don't complain, Boyce dear, it's a win/win situation."
"Then, I'm the happiest man on Earth! I have three adorable mates, two darling children and an incredibly wonderful family. I don't think it's possible for things to get any better."
Rosepetal was grinning while Forest had laid hir head against the admiral's chest, purring loudly. Zhane was smiling in satisfaction too, but became serious for one more time. She said, "There's just one last thing Boyce, and this time I speak only for myself and not Rose. I have given you a second chance this time because I think you are worth it. There won't be a third. Have I made myself clear?"
"Yes, my love, I understand." Boyce said solemnly.
"Then give me a hug too, you adorable fool," Zhane smiled.
Forest relinquished Boyce for long enough for him to exchange a reconciliatory hug with his second mate. There were traces of tears in both their eyes as they kissed, rediscovering the happiness they enjoyed in each other's arms. When they broke, they realised that they had an appreciative audience and grinned.
"Time to rejoin the others, I think," Rosepetal declared.
There was a general murmur of agreement and they made their way out to the living room, only to encounter Goldfur and Midnight trying to look innocent and failing miserably.
"Who left the study door open when we were laying down the verdict?" Zhane asked, guessing that the two chakats had heard every word.
Goldfur and Midnight burst out laughing. "Sorry, Zhane," Goldfur said, "But we have exceptionally good hearing and we couldn't help overhearing. Congratulations, Sister, I knew that you would snag Boyce sooner or later." Shi stepped up to give hir a kiss and a cuddle. Then did the same for Boyce.
"Thanks, Goldie," Forest said. Then hir mate offered hir congratulations.
"You have made a grand choice for a mate, Forest. Now I can say that my co-mate is an admiral!" shi chuckled and hugged Forest with real pleasure in hir mate's happiness. Shi offered the same to Boyce who didn't refuse. Then shi stood back and assumed a thoughtful pose. "Correct me if I am wrong, Zhane, Rose, but isn't there one thing all our societies do to celebrate a new mating?"
"And that would be?" Rose asked.
"The newly-mated go to a private room and consummate it!" Zhane answered.
"So what are you still doing here?" Goldfur asked the couple.
Forest laughed and said, "First I'm telling our parents the good news...."
"We know!" came a chorus of voices from the next room.
Forest groaned. "I come from a family of eavesdroppers!" shi lamented.
Boyce said, "Then we should not disappoint them, should we, my love?" He grabbed Forest's paw to tow hir towards the guestroom. When he came to the door, he paused and said, "I carried both Rosepetal and Zhane over the threshold just for tradition. I wish that I could do the same for you, Forest, but I don't think you'd want a lover with a hernia."
Forest smiled mischievously. "No, we can't overlook tradition," shi declared, then whisked him into hir own strong arms and stepped inside the room. "Congratulations, my darling mate," shi said, then started to kiss him long and thoroughly.
Boyce responded with enthusiasm, his whole being expressing the joy he now felt. When they finally broke, he panted for a moment then said, "I did not dare even hope that one day we could be full mates. I intend to show you just how happy that you have made me this day."
The lovers began what would become hours of pleasant love-making. The admiral's other mates were content now that their crisis had been resolved. Rosepetal was already looking forward to telling her family of her greatly increased status. Zhane was already considering the possibilities of having Forest's whole family as potential lovers. "Perhaps these Chakats have got it right," she thought. "Time will show me if I made the right decision." She turned to Midnight who was sprawled comfortably on a rug near her. "Your mate is likely to be busy for a while, and I hear that you prefer your male side. Would you like to dally with me for a while?"
Midnight smiled at her. "How could I refuse an invitation from such a beautiful lady as you? It would be my pleasure."
As Zhane walked into Midnight's welcoming arms, both somehow knew that a new era had begun for their combined families and they were eagerly looking forward to finding out what it would be like.
Next story in chronological order is Forest Tales #12.
The Admiral & The Chakat is continued in A&C #7: Games Of Life And Love.
Characters and story copyright © 1997 Bernard Doove & Boyce Garald Kline Jnr.
NOTE: This story originally had a love scene written into it which showed exactly how Forest and the Admiral consummated their mating, but as it was pointed out to me, it was a fairly gratuitous sex scene and didn't forward the storyline at all. I agreed and took it out, but for the sake of completeness, I've kept it available for those of you who wish to read it. Follow this link to the mating scene.
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